One global epidemic that comes to mind readily is the Corona virus that originated from China. But what many people do not realize is that there have been worst epidemic the world has seen since the world was created. For years medical researchers and scientist have differed over the exact definition of a pandemic, or an epidemic.

Regardless of what anyone thinks, one indisputable fact remains that the word describes the widespread occurrence of disease, in excess of what might normally be expected in any geographical region.

Some of the most brutal killers in human history are Cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, and influenza. Any outbreaks of these diseases across international borders, can be defined as pandemic, especially smallpox, which throughout history, has killed over 300-500 million people in its 12,000 year existence.

Corona virus also known as Convid 19 has been left out as the pandemic is still ongoing with its actual death toll yet to be ascertained when the pandemic is over.

In the ancient times, most people believed that spirits and gods were responsible for inflicting disease and destruction upon the people thereby deserving their wrath. This unscientific perception has however been proven as untrue with modern technological breakthrough.

We look at top 10 worst pandemic in world history. We look at the death toll estimate, locations affected, date, event, type of disease and cause.

  1. SIXTH CHOLERA PANDEMIC (1899 – 1923)
    Death Toll estimate: 800,000+
    Cause: Cholera

Like its five previous pandemic, the Sixth Cholera Pandemic originated in India where it killed over 800,000, before spreading to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. The Sixth Cholera Pandemic was also known to be the source of the last American outbreak of Cholera (1910–1911).

Having learned from the past, the American health authorities, quickly sought to isolate the infected, and in the end only 11 deaths occurred in the U.S. By 1923 Cholera cases had reduced dramatically, although it was still a constant in India. The sixth cholera pandemic (1899–1923) like the first was a major outbreak of cholera beginning also in India, where it killed more than 800,000 people.

The cholera pandemic’s origin in India led to a rise in anti-Asian sentiment, especially towards Indian people and culture. Seven cholera pandemics have since then occurred in the past 200 years, with the first pandemic originating in India in 1817.

9. THIRD CHOLERA PANDEMIC (1852–1860)
Death Toll estimate: 1 million
Cause: Cholera
Generally considered the most deadly of the seven cholera pandemics, the third major outbreak of Cholera in the 19th century lasted from 1852 to Like the first and second pandemics, the Third Cholera Pandemic originated in India, spreading from the Ganges River Delta before tearing through Asia, Europe, North America and Africa and ending the lives of over a million people. Between 1852 and 1923, the world would see four more cholera pandemics.

British physician John Snow eventually succeeded in identifying contaminated water as the means of transmission for the disease while working in a poor area of London. That same year (1854) went down as the worst year of the pandemic, in which 23,000 people had died in Great Britain.

The third pandemic, which stretched from 1852–1859, was the deadliest. It devastated Asia, Europe, North America and Africa, killing 23,000 people in Great Britain alone in 1854, the worst single year of cholera.

8. FLU PANDEMIC (1889-1890)
Death Toll estimate: 1 million
Cause: Influenza

Originally known as “Russian Flu” as it was called, this strain was thought to be an outbreak of the Influenza A virus subtype H2N2, though recent discoveries have instead found the cause to be the Influenza A virus subtype H3N8. The first cases were observed in May 1889 in three separate and distant locations, Bukhara in Central Asia (Turkestan), Athabasca in northwestern Canada, and Greenland. Due to the high population growth of the 19th century, specifically in urban areas, it helped the flu spread, and before long the outbreak had spread across the globe. In the end, the 1889-1890 Flu Pandemic claimed the lives of over a million individuals. Through this first true epidemic much was learned from it in the era of bacteriology.

7. ASIAN FLU (1956-1958)
Death Toll estimate: 2 million
Cause: Influenza

Asian Flu was a pandemic outbreak of Influenza A of the H2N2 subtype, which originated in China in 1956 and lasted until 1958. In its two-year spree, The Flu migrated from the Chinese province of Guizhou to Singapore, Hong Kong, and to the United States. The Asian Flu pandemic was another global outing for influenza. Having originated in China, the disease went on to claim more than 1 million lives.
Estimates for the death toll of the Asian Flu vary depending on the source, but the World Health Organization places the final tally at approximately 2 million deaths, 69,800 of those in the US alone.

6. FLU PANDEMIC (1968)
Death Toll estimate: 1 – 4 million
Cause: Influenza

The global outbreak of influenza that originated in China in July 1968 and lasted until 1969–70, killing between one and four million people
Regarded as a category 2 Flu pandemic sometimes referred also to as “the Hong Kong Flu,” This 1968 flu pandemic was caused by the H3N2 strain of the Influenza A virus, a genetic offshoot of the H2N2 subtype. The first reported case on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong took only 17 days before outbreaks of the virus were reported in Singapore and Vietnam, and within three months it had spread to The Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. There were deaths of more than a million people, including 500,000 residents of Hong Kong, approximately 15% of its population at the time even though the pandemic had a comparatively low mortality rate (.5%).

5. ANTONINE PLAGUE (165 AD)
Death Toll estimate: 5 million
Cause: Unknown


Also known as the Plague of Galen, the Antonine Plague was an ancient pandemic which affected Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, and Italy and historians suspect that it could have been smallpox or measles. This disease claimed almost up to 2 000 deaths per day in Rome, though the true cause is still historically unknown.
This unknown disease was brought back to Rome by soldiers after returning from Mesopotamia around 165AD; they had brought back along with them the spoils of victory, while unknown to them, they had spread a disease which ended up killing over 5 million people and decimating the Roman army. The Antonine Plague, which may have been smallpox, laid waste to the army and may have killed over 5 million people in the Roman empire.

4. HIV/AIDS PANDEMIC (AT ITS PEAK, 2005-2012)
Death Toll estimate: 25 -35 million
Cause: HIV/AIDS


First identified in Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976, HIV/AIDS has truly proven itself as a global pandemic, killing more than 36 million people since 1981. The virus is thought to have originated from chimpanzees. Currently there are between 31 and 35 million people living with HIV, the vast majority of those are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 5% of the population is infected, roughly 21 million people.

Due to the high level of global awareness, new treatments have been developed that make the virus far more manageable, and many of those infected go on to lead productive lives. Between 2005 and 2012 the annual global deaths from HIV/AIDS dropped from 2.2 million to 1.6 million. Now, about 64% of the estimated 40 million living with human immunodeficiency virus(HIV) live in sub- Saharan Africa.


For decades, the disease had no known cure, but medication developed in the 1990s now allows people with the disease to experience a normal life span with regular treatment

Before we look at the three worst pandemic in world history we look at other prominent pandemic and epidemic whose death casualties were not high. The 21st century saw the Swine flu of 2009 – 2010 which claimed over 250,000 lives, the virus infected as many as 1.4 billion people across the globe and killed between 151,700 and 575,400 people, according to the CDC. SARS (2002-2003) claimed 770 lives. Ebola which ravaged West Africa between 2014 and 2016, with 28,600 reported cases and 11,325 deaths. Other earlier centuries epidemic include The Plague of Athens: 430 B.C. The Great Plague of London: 1665-1666 claimed 100,000. The Great Plague of Marseille: 1720-1723 and the Russian plague: 1770-1772.

The Three worst Pandemic in world history include:

3. PLAGUE OF JUSTINIAN (541-542)
Death Toll estimate: 25 -50 million
Cause: Bubonic Plague consisting of Yersinia pestis bacteria / Rats, fleas.

The plague is believed to have killed perhaps half the population of Europe, the Plague of Justinian which was an outbreak of the bubonic plague afflicted the Byzantine Empire and Mediterranean port cities, killing up to 25 million people in its long reign of terror. Necrosis of the limbs was one of the terrifying symptoms.

The Byzantine Empire which was ravaged by the bubonic plague, began to see the start of its decline. The plague would go on to reappear periodically afterward. Some historical estimates suggest that up to 10% of the world’s population died. The plague is named after the Byzantine Emperor Justinian who reigned A.D. 527-565. Under his reign, the Byzantine Empire reached its greatest extent, controlling territory that stretched from the Middle East to Western Europe.

Generally regarded as the first recorded incident of the Bubonic Plague, the Plague of Justinian left its mark on the world, having killed up to a quarter of the population of the Eastern Mediterranean and devastating the city of Constantinople eventually resulting in the deaths of 40% of the city’s population.

2. FLU PANDEMIC (1918 and 1920)
Death Toll estimate: 25 -50 million
Cause: Influenza


Commonly known as the Spanish Flu. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, mostly regarded by many as the deadliest in history, infecting an estimated 500 million people worldwide about one-third of the planet’s population. One-fifth of those infected died between 1918 and 1920 . The deadly flu was first observed in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia before it began to spread around the world.

At the time the outbreak began, there were no effective drugs or vaccines to treat it. Citizens were forced to wear masks. Schools, theaters and businesses were shuttered and bodies piled up in makeshift morgues. Despite the name Spanish Flu, the disease did not start in Spain. During the war, Spain as a neutral nation and did not enforce strict censorship of its press, which could therefore freely publish early accounts of the illness and casualties. The pandemic almost pushed some indigenous communities to the brink of extinction.

The Spanish flu became the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus, with the second being the swine flu in 2009. In fact, more U.S. soldiers died from the 1918 flu than were killed in battle during the war. By the end of the deadly virus which had occurred in Three separate waves, It had left in its wake an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including about 675,000 Americans.

1. THE BLACK DEATH (1346-1353)
Death Toll estimate: 75 – 200 million
Cause: Bubonic Plague consisting of strain of Yersinia pestis bacteria /Rats, fleas.

A painting showing the effects of the plague in Basel, Switzerland, 1349. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Regarded as the world’s greatest pandemic since her history. From 1346 to 1353 the outbreak of the Plague ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia, with an estimated death toll between 75 and 200 million people.

Some estimates believe it wiped out over half of Europe’s population. The Plague is believed most likely to have jumped continents via the fleas living on the rats that so frequently lived aboard merchant ships. By the end of the plague it had devastated three continents in its wake.

The 14th century plague changed the course of Europe’s history. With so many dead, labor became harder to find. The lack of cheap labor is believed to have contributed to technological innovation.

Like these previous world pandemic the present Corona virus will disappear but we don’t know how many lives would have be affected and how soon it will end. But one thing is certain with modern scientific discoveries, drugs and technological breakthrough, we can be assured the Corona virus pandemic will not be as worst as previous pandemic.

SOURCES: http://www.cbc.ca, en.wikipedia.org, http://news.discovery.com

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